The store opened Dec. 2 along with several other retailers with a local and national flair.
Sanders was on hand to celebrate the opening of the EA store and stuck around to sign autographs for fans. Inside, customers can purchase apparel and accessories from Oklahoma State University, Sanders alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Sanders said he has many fans who only know him through his electronic doppelganger with OSU and the Detroit Lions.
Trophy winner and Oklahoma State University alum Barry Sanders welcomes
guests to the new EA Sports Experience store Dec. 2 at Will Rogers
World Airport as Mayor Mick Cornett and Director of Airports Mark
Kranenburg look on. It is the second EA airport store in the country.
Other new stores at the airport include Bricktown Square, Brighton
Collectibles, InMotion Entertainment and Pops East and West.
“So many kids who never saw me play know me through these games,” he said.
And Sanders is a fan himself. He enjoys Madden NFL and NCAA Football, but he doesn’t always necessarily suit up his younger self. Sanders plays a variety of EA games with various teams, but is pleased with the athletic prowess of his video game counterpart.
“I definitely have a hall of fame rating,” he says.
The other new or redesigned stores at the airport include Bricktown Square, Brighton Collectibles, InMotion Entertainment and Pops East and West, meaning there is one on the east end of the airport and one on the west. It is part of a $1.7 million renovation to the airport retail and concession shops, a joint partnership between Atlanta-based The Paradies Shops and local partner Kambers Gifts and Luggage.
Gregg Paradies, president and CEO of Paradies, said his company was not a shoe-in, despite their long relationship with the airport.
“Airport officials were very clear they wanted a good balance of local and national brands,” he said. “We responded with what we felt was an excellent balance.”
Paradies has exclusive licensing to the stores, and operates more than 500 stores in 70 airports and hotels in the United States and Canada.
The EA store is the second one in the country with the first in Charlotte, NC. Paradies said it was a hit there, which led his team to open the Oklahoma City store where customers can buy apparel, or simply stop by and play a video game.
Mark Kranenburg, director of airports, said it was time for something fresh and new in the airport’s retail offerings, and Paradies’ concept just happened to fit the bill
“What we were looking for was a real change and a real impact to all our stores here at the airport,” he said. “The Paradies Shops really came through.”
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett welcomed the stores, and shared a humorous story in introducing Sanders. He said people regularly come up to him to share their sightings of the Heisman Trophy winner when he visits the city. Cornett said he is often baffled as to why people seek him out to give breathless accounts of seeing Sanders and other celebrities and well known people around town.
“For some reason, people feel obligated to report these sightings to the mayor,” he said with a laugh. “It is with a great deal of respect and happiness that I report today that Barry Sanders is in Oklahoma City.”